Reel Asian 2020: Our Review of ‘Goodbye Mother’

Reel Asian 2020: Our Review of ‘Goodbye Mother’

Relationships are key in Goodbye Mother. Hanh Van Nau (Lan Thanh) is the center of these relationships, the first one being, of course, the one with his mother (Hong Dao), the latter trying and failing to hide her worsening respiratory condition. Both are members of a financially ambiguous family.

The second main relationship here is the one Ian (Vo Dien Gia Huy)  has with the family. Nau introduces Ian to the family as a friend from the States, but the viewers all know that’s a lie. They try to hide their real relationship but some family members know the truth.

Goodbye Mother makes a case about films within the ‘returning to the home country’ subgenre. This entry and its best moments is basically evidence that the subgenre belongs within the hangout film umbrella. It revels within the joy in watching boht Nau and Ian hanging out with his aunties.

Goodbye Mother is also my first Vietnamese film, and it’s a great showcase of the Vietnamese language and culture. There’s a subplot here involving Nau and Ian helping with spreading the former’s father’s ashes. It’s easy to assume the easiness of filming religious spaces, but there’s some subtlety here too.

Some scenes are subtle while others lack that quality, especially during some scenes which don’t include the family. The premise here is that both Nau and Ian lived in America for a long while. But that backstory doesn’t manifest within their small arguments or the way they behave within spaces.

There’s also something about how it writes the family during the third act, which starts out with a gay bashing. That bashing eventually involves an argument about finances which seems excessive for one film. But that what might the film’s best asset, showing how couples survive their messy extended families.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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